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Twitter's New Algorithmic Timeline Causing Fits

Three days after a report indicated that Twitter might soon introduce an algorithm-driven timeline, fans of the microblogging site are continuing to tweet their complaints using the hashtag #RIPTwitter.

The outpouring of commentary in the wake of Friday’s report in BuzzFeed prompted CEO Jack Dorsey (pictured above) to respond with two tweets of his own on Saturday. In one, he noted that Twitter “never planned to reorder timelines” in the coming week.

Twitter currently posts new tweets to a user’s timeline in reverse chronological order, as it has done since the service first launched in 2006. Opponents of a change to that format complain that an algorithmic timeline would leave the site looking and feeling more like Facebook.

‘Let Us Decide’

“Say hello to a brand new Twitter,” BuzzFeed said in an article published Friday evening. The story then described the company’s planned switch to an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, adding “It is unclear whether Twitter will force users to use the algorithmic feed, or it will merely be an option.”

The report set off a storm of tweets from users opposed to the proposed change. Many took the opportunity to note that it was a change they had not asked for, while changes they have sought — including editing capabilities for tweets — have not been implemented.

User Mark Thorpe, a wildlife cameraman with the Twitter account themoceanvibe, started a petition on Change.org asking people to sign a petition asking Dorsey to “let us decide what we want to see on our timelines. After all, it’s what we signed up for.” As of this afternoon, the petition had gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

Dorsey: ‘We’re Always Listening’

By Saturday afternoon, Dorsey sent out a tweet telling users, “I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.”

In a follow-up tweet sent a few minutes later, Dorsey added, “I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It’s us. And we’re going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!”

A number of news outlets following the furor, however, have reported that Twitter should stop listening to some of its most vocal users.

“Twitter should ignore these users,” the Motley Fool said today. “You have to remember the underlying reason why Twitter is considering such a wide range of changes to its core product in the first place: it’s too hard to use and that’s limiting user growth.”

Twitter finds itself in a difficult position, caught between a vocal base of long-time users who don’t want any changes to the site and investors looking for signs that the company can jump-start growth in its user base. To put things in perspective: Facebook, which is only two years older than Twitter, has 1.49 billion monthly active users. Twitter, however, attracts just 316 million active users every month.

Investors’ desire for improved growth is putting pressure on Dorsey, who moved from interim CEO to permanent CEO of the company in October. Twitter is scheduled to announce its fourth quarter earnings for 2015 on Wednesday.

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